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ReFLEX Orkney to demonstrate energy system of the future

The first phase of a new GBP28.5 million (≈ EUR 33.3 million) project to create a Virtual Energy System (VES) in Orkney, Scotland, has been launched to digitally link distributed and intermittent renewable generation to flexible demand. The ReFLEX (Responsive Flexibility) Orkney project will demonstrate a first-of-its-kind VES interlinking local electricity, transport, and heat networks into one controllable, overarching system.

The first phase of a new GBP28.5 million (≈ EUR 33.3 million) project to create a Virtual Energy System (VES) in Orkney, Scotland, has been launched to digitally link distributed and intermittent renewable generation to flexible demand. The ReFLEX (Responsive Flexibility) Orkney project will demonstrate a first-of-its-kind Virtual Energy System (VES) interlinking local electricity, transport, and heat networks into one controllable, overarching system (photo courtesy EMEC).

Funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, the project aims to create a ‘smart energy island’, demonstrating the energy system of the future, which will reduce and eventually eliminate the need for fossil fuels.

We all need energy systems that are cheaper, cleaner and consumer-friendly. We have a great opportunity with the ReFLEX project to show just how innovation can deliver this energy ambition for the future. Supported by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, ReFLEX can drive investment, create high-quality jobs and grow companies with export potential, said Rob Saunders, Deputy Challenge Director, Prospering from the Energy Revolution, UKRI.

Led by the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), the ReFLEX Orkney project brings together an expert consortium of Orkney-based partners – Solo Energy, Aquatera, Community Energy Scotland, Heriot-Watt University and Orkney Islands Council – as well as multi-national energy company Doosan Babcock.

What we are seeing here on Orkney is a test bed for the energy system of the future. These smart systems are a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy and will provide cheaper, greener and more flexible access to energy for everyone. What we learn from these innovations could one day be rolled out across the UK and exported around the world and we’ll be able to say it was ‘Made in Orkney’, said UK Energy and Clean Growth Minister, Claire Perry.

Balancing renewable intermittency with flexible energy demand

Electricity, transport, and heat powered by local renewable energy generation will be coupled with flexible energy demand balancing the intermittency of renewables. At the heart of the project is the demonstration of flexible energy balancing technologies.

For example, the project aims to deploy:

  • Up to 500 domestic batteries;
  • Up to 100 business and large-scale batteries;
  • Up to 200 Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) chargers;
  • Up to 600 new electrical vehicles (EVs);
  • An island community-powered electric bus and e-bike integrated transport system;
  • Up to 100 flexible heating systems; and
  • A Doosan industrial-scale hydrogen fuel cell.
Solo Energy will implement their FlexiGrid software platform enabling smart monitoring and control of the flexible technologies to charge during periods of peak local renewable generation, and release stored energy during times of peak demand (photo courtesy Solo Energy).

Solo Energy will implement their FlexiGrid software platform enabling smart monitoring and control of the flexible technologies to charge during periods of peak local renewable generation, and release stored energy during times of peak demand (photo courtesy Solo Energy).

Novel funding

These technologies will be introduced under attractive leasing type finance and novel ways of ownership that avoid the end user requiring major capital investment. This pioneering project will help Orkney maximise the potential of its significant renewable generation capabilities, help to ensure higher quality and more affordable energy services, as well as further lowering the county’s carbon footprint by decreasing reliance on imported carbon-intensive grid electricity from the UK mainland.

Scotland is at the forefront of smart energy which is key to the UK Government’s modern Industrial Strategy. With GBP14.3 million (≈ EUR 16.7 million) of UK Government funding going to the ReFLEX project in Orkney, we are helping to establish the Scottish Islands as an energy powerhouse. We need cheaper, cleaner and flexible energy and Orkney will be at the heart of this, said UK Government Minister Lord Duncan.

Once demonstrated and proven in Orkney, it is expected that the VES model and associated integrated energy service supply framework will be replicated in other areas across the UK and internationally, building long term export opportunities for the ReFLEX project partners and helping to create more flexible and renewable-based energy systems.

We’re delighted that UKRI has funded this project. This new model will demonstrate how we can better interact with, own and manage our integrated energy systems locally, both at individual and community level. Fifty percent of the project is being funded privately indicating the appetite that exists within the partners to make this project work. Orkney has already demonstrated high commitment for local sustainable energy solutions and the county is well on its way to decarbonising each aspect of the energy system. The target for Orkney is to have a negative carbon footprint and this pioneering project will build upon the existing local energy system, local infrastructure, and local expertise, to accelerate this transition to a fully sustainable and flexible energy system, remarked Neil Kermode, Managing Director at EMEC on behalf of the ReFLEX Orkney project partners.

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